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S. Cipher Contest

S. created by J.J. Abrams and written by Doug Dorst

In S., two readers work together to unearth the truth behind the mysterious author of Ship of Theseus. Along the way, they must sift through evidence and decipher a series of puzzles. If you follow their efforts in J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst’s new novel, you’ll be able to figure out what the following message means. Follow these lines, from first to last, and play fair—the bearded sailor sees all:

Midnight in the Old Quarter of a city where river meets sea. Hypnotic

fog caresses stone, glides over water, pulses in the dark beyond the harbor.

Never cry out when you’re shoved from the dock; never fear the sharks, the storms, the depths. This is the closest thing to freedom.

Swim like you still have power. Swim like they fear you’re able. Swim with

xebec swiftness through chop and wind, through blistering sun and frigid gloom.

Cherish each stroke, each breath, each gulp of ocean–the music of a mortally beautiful waltz, ever to ring through seas and skies.

Submit your decryption and explanation in the entry form below, and you could join J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst for lunch in New York City. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL CONTEST RULES.

Note: This contest is now closed. Thank you to all who entered. If you’re curious about how to solve this cipher, there were many clues in the instructions! The message above is a playfair cipher (“…and play fair”). The digraphs needed for the Playfair square are the first and last letter of each line (“…from first to last”): MC FR NM SH XM CS

To generate the 5×5 square, fill in the spaces with the keyword (dropping any duplicate letters), which in this case is “Maelstro(m),” also known in S. as “the bearded sailor.” Fill in the remaining spaces of the table with the rest of the letters of the alphabet in order (putting I and J in the same space):

MAELS
TROBC
DFGHI
KNPQU
VWXYZ

Applying the Playfair rules to each digraph yields ST RA KA LI VE SZ. The Z is a (conventional) filler letter.

S. Cipher Promotion
OFFICIAL RULES

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND WILL NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING.

Eligibility: Promotion is open to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are at least 18 years of age as of October 29, 2013. Employees of Hachette Book Group, Inc. (“Sponsor”), J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst (the “Authors”) of the work entitled S., and their respective parent, subsidiaries, affiliates, retailers, suppliers, distributors, advertising/promotion agencies and their immediate family members (mother, father, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and spouse), and the restaurant where the Grand Prize will be held, and/or those living in the same household of such employees, whether or not related, are not eligible to enter or win, (“Promotion Entities”). Promotion is void where prohibited by law.

The Promotion: Entrant must correctly answer the Code below and explain how entrant did it in 50 words or less.

Promotion Period: All entries must be received between 12:01 am (ET) on October 29, 2013 and 11:59 pm (ET) on November 13, 2013.

How to Enter:

Enter by going to Sponsor’s site, www.mulhollandbooks.com, and filling out fully and submitting the form there, including (1) information about entrant, i.e., full name, birthday, state of residence and an email address where we may contact entrant, and (2) decipher the Code and describe in 50 words or less how the Code was deciphered (collectively “Submission”).

For online entries, only an email address subscribed to and registered in an entrant’s name may be used by such entrant. In the event of a dispute about entries submitted by multiple individuals using the same email address or account, entry will be deemed to have been submitted by the authorized subscriber of the email account used to enter the Promotion AT the actual time of entry. The authorized email account subscriber is deemed to be the natural person who is assigned an email address by an Internet-access provider, an online-service provider or another organization that is responsible for assigning email addresses or the domain associated with the submitted email address.

No substitutions of Submissions will be accepted under any circumstances. Incomplete Submissions and Submissions that exceed 50 words will be considered ineligible. Submissions become the exclusive property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged. Proof of entry is not considered proof of delivery or receipt of such entry to Sponsor. Sponsor shall not have liability for any entry that is lost, intercepted or not received by Sponsor, for any reason. Limit one entry per person, per email account and household during the Promotion Period. Mail entries will not be eligible.

Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to disqualify any Submission if it does not comply with the specifications above or if Sponsor views the Submission as potentially infringing or otherwise a violation or potential violation of a third party’s rights or if it deems the Submission to be lacking in taste or quality, or to be otherwise objectionable.

Submissions become the exclusive property of Sponsor and will not be returned or acknowledged. Proof of Submission is not considered proof of delivery or receipt of such Submission to Sponsor. Sponsor shall not have liability for any Submission that is lost, intercepted or not received by Sponsor, for any reason. BE SURE TO KEEP COPIES OF YOUR SUBMISSION, AS SUBMISSIONS WILL NOT BE RETURNED TO ENTRANTS.

CODE: Follow these lines, from first to last, and play fair—the bearded sailor sees all:

Midnight in the Old Quarter of a city where river meets sea. Hypnotic

fog caresses stone, glides over water, pulses in the dark beyond the harbor.

Never cry out when you’re shoved from the dock; never fear the sharks, the storms, the depths. This is the closest thing to freedom.

Swim like you still have power. Swim like they fear you’re able. Swim with

xebec swiftness through chop and wind, through blistering sun and frigid gloom.

Cherish each stroke, each breath, each gulp of ocean–the music of a mortally beautiful waltz, ever to ring through seas and skies.

Prize: There will be one (1) Grand Prize won by one (1) entrant. The Grand Prize consists of lunch with the Authors in a mid-price restaurant in downtown New York City, for approximately 45 minutes, on November 22, 2013 (or such date before the end of 2013 as Sponsor may reschedule the lunch.)

Sponsor will pay for Grand Prize Winner’s lunch, up to a maximum of $75.00, but will not pay for alcohol or gratuities. In addition, please note that Sponsor shall not pay for any other expenses, costs and taxes of Winner, including, without limitation, those for or in connection with transportation between the Winner’s residence/location and the restaurant, which other expenses, costs and taxes will be the sole responsibility of the Grand Prize Winner.

The Total ARV of the grand prize is $75.00.

Winner Selection, Notification and Qualification: On or about November 14, 2013, a potential Grand Prize winner will be selected by two judges employed by the Sponsor (“Judges”) from among all eligible Submissions submitted within the Promotion Period. Winner will be the Submission which in the opinion of the Judges earns the highest number of points based on the criteria below:

50% for accuracy, i.e. Did entrant decrypt the code correctly?

40% for style, i.e. what method(s) did entrant use to decrypt the code?

10% for logic, i.e. how well does the entrant explain his/her method of decryption in 50 words or less?

In the event of a tie, the Judges will re-review the tied Submissions and decide which in their opinion has earned the highest number of points based on those same criteria.

The potential winner will be notified on or after November 15, 2013 by e-mail using the contact information provided at the time of entry. In addition, if Sponsor elects, announcements also may be posted online at www.mulhollandbooks.com. Sponsor shall have no liability for any winner notification that is lost, intercepted or not received by a potential winner for any reason. If any potential winner is found to be ineligible, or if he or she has not complied with these Official Rules, such potential winner will be disqualified and an alternate winner may be selected.

The potential prize winner will be required to execute and return an Affidavit of Eligibility, Liability Release and (where legal) Publicity Release (collectively “Prize Claim Documents”) within (5) five days of issuance of notification. If the winner is considered to be a minor in his or her state of residence, at Sponsor’s option, the applicable prize either will be awarded to the minor winner’s parent or guardian on behalf of the winner, or the parent or legal guardian of the minor winner will be required to ratify and sign the Prize Claim Documents. Non-compliance with the foregoing may result in disqualification and awarding of prize to an alternate winner. If any prize notification letter or prize is returned as undeliverable, winner will be disqualified and an alternate winner may be selected. Confirmation of prize winners is subject to Sponsor’s verification of the Prize Claim Documents. Sponsor reserves the right to substitute all or part of a prize with for one or more prizes of equal or greater value due to any reason whatsoever, including but not limited to Authors’ changing schedules and/or unavailability.

Odds/Number of Entrants: Odds of winning will depend on the number of eligible Submissions. Sponsor cannot accurately predict that number.

Disclosure of Winner’s Name Online: By accepting the Grand Prize, winner irrevocably grants the Promotion Entities and their respective successors, assigns and licensees, the right to use such entrant’s name and state of resident online in connection with the Promotion, and winner hereby releases the Promotion Entities from any liability with respect thereto.

General Prize Conditions: Prize will be awarded only if the potential winner fully complies with these Official Rules. No cash will be paid to winner and no interest will be paid on any prize. Prize is non-transferable and non-assignable and is not redeemable or reimbursable for cash or another prize. All details and other restrictions of prizes not specified in these Official Rules will be determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion.

Sponsor’s decisions will be final and binding in all matters relating to this Promotion.

Further Documentation: If Sponsor shall desire to secure additional documents in order to effectuate the purposes and intent of these Official Rules, then each entrant agrees to sign the same upon Sponsor’s request therefore.

General Liability Release/Force Majeure: Entrants (or if minors, their parents or legal guardians) agree that the Promotion Entities (a) shall not be responsible or liable for any losses, damages or injuries of any kind resulting from participation in the Promotion, or any Promotion or Prize-related activity, or from entrants’ acceptance, receipt, possession and/or misuse of the prize, including, without limitation, injury, accident or illness related to the Promotion, and (b) have not made any warranty, representation or guarantee express or implied, in fact law, with respect to the prize, including, without limitation, to such prize’s quality or fitness for a particular purpose. Sponsor assumes no responsibility for any damage to an entrant participating in the Promotion or use of any prize.

Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, Sponsor is not responsible for incomplete, illegible, misdirected, misprinted, late, lost, damaged, stolen or postage-due entries, or prize notifications; or for lost interrupted Entries sent by mail; or for any technical malfunctions, failures, difficulties or other errors of any kind or nature. Sponsor may in its sole discretion disqualify any individual who is found to be tampering with the entry process or the operation of the Promotion, to be acting in violation of these Official Rules, or to be acting in an unsportsman-like or disruptive manner, or with the intent to disrupt or undermine the legitimate operation of the Promotion, or to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person, and Sponsor reserves the right to seek damages and other remedies from any such person the fullest extent permitted by law.

In the event Sponsor is prevented from awarding prize, continuing with the Promotion as contemplated herein, or implementing the prize, or the Authors or either of them is/are unable to participate in the prize, by any event beyond Sponsor’s or Authors’ reasonable control, including but not limited to fire, flood, natural or man made epidemic, earthquake, explosion, labor dispute or strike, act of God or public enemy, satellite or equipment failure, riot or civil disturbance, terrorist threat or activity, war (declared or undeclared) or any federal state or local governing law, order, regulation, public health crisis (e.g. SARS), order of any court or jurisdiction, or other cause not reasonably within Sponsor’s control (each a “Force Majeure” event or occurrence), then subject to any governmental approval may be required, Sponsor shall have the right to modify, suspend, or terminate the Promotion. If the Promotion is terminated for Force Majeure before the designated end date, Sponsor will (if possible) select the winner(s) from all eligible, non-suspect entries received as of the date of the event giving rise to the termination. If the Grand Prize cannot be implemented, Sponsor will (if possible) award a prize which in the sole discretion of the Sponsor is commensurate with the cost or the Grand Prize.

These Official Rules cannot be modified or amended in any way except in a written document issued in accordance with law by a duly authorized representative of Sponsor. The invalidity or unenforceability of any provision of these Rules shall not affect the validity enforceability of any other provision. In the event that any provision is determined to be invalid or otherwise unenforceable or illegal, these Official Rules shall otherwise remain in effect and shall be construed in accordance with their terms as if the invalid or illegal provision were not contained herein.

Governing Law/Jurisdiction: ALL ISSUES AND QUESTIONS CONCERNING THE CONSTRUCTION, VALIDITY, INTERPRETATION AND ENFORCEABLITIY OF THESE OFFICIAL RULES OR THE RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF ENTRANTS OR SPONSOR IN CONNECTION WITH THE PROMOTION SHALL BE GOVERNED BY AND CONSTRUED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE INTERNAL LAWS OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK WITHOUT GIVING EFFECT TO ANY CHOICE OF LAW OR CONFLICT OF LAW RULES OR PROVISIONS THAT WOULD CAUSE THE APPLICATION OF ANY OTHER STATE’S LAWS.

Winners List: To obtain a copy of any legally-required Winners List, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to S. Cipher Promotion Winners List, Hachette Book Group, Inc., 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Attn: 16-105B. All requests must be received by Sponsor within six (6) weeks after the end of the Entry Period.

Sponsor: Hachette Book Group, Inc., 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017.

3 Responses »

  1. Oh no! So UK residents cant enter? Even if we’ve figured it out? Such a shame. I’d love to hear about the outcome (who won, how the lunch goes, etc) – will there be any publicity?

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